The College recently approved a new policy about political campaign activities on campus, clarifying its impartial stance in political campaign activities in order to ensure compliance with federal law. Previously, no such policy existed formally, although most of the standards set forth were already followed.
Since Kenyon has nonprofit status, the College may not support or oppose candidates for public office. The new policy addresses how Kenyon can legally comply with this status without limiting free speech on campus.
“We want students and faculty and people who work in the College to be good citizens and politically engaged, but we have to make sure the political activity the members of the College engage in doesn’t actually endanger the College’s nonprofit status,” said Professor of Political Science David Rowe, who was involved in drafting the policy.
Though the policy mandates that equal opportunity must be given to all candidates for a particular office to speak at Kenyon, this applies only to College-affiliated organizations such as the Center for the Study of American Democracy. Student organizations are allowed to invite any candidate that they choose to speak on campus without having to offer the same opportunity to other candidates running for that office. The policy also clarifies that candidates will be subject to the same fees and rules as any other organization would when using campus spaces.
“As far as I could tell, the only thing that directly affected [Kenyon Democrats] was just having to explicitly say on posters that the College is not endorsing candidates, we are, and that’s not a huge operational change,” Lizzie Boyle ’19, president of Kenyon Democrats, said. “In my experience, we have never had to pay fees to bring candidates to campus.” The policy states that student organizations are responsible for any costs that might occur in connection with an event for a candidate they brought to campus.
The new policy is not exhaustive, and specifies that political activities not covered within it will be judged as acceptable or not based on how they add to the College’s educational mission or threaten its status as a tax-exempt organization.